12 Virtual Museum Exhibits
by Jeesoo Walker
Even though you might not always be able to visit museums in person, there are now many ways to experience their amazing collections virtually. Below is a curated listing of fascinating offerings that leverage the resources of a dozen distinguished institutions. Along with household names, some wonderful museums beyond the cultural mainstream are included to show the breadth of opportunities available for online exploration.
Conserving a Carousel Horse
The Art Institute of Chicago
The Art Institute of Chicago offers various ways to have a virtual experience, including access to its permanent collection, articles, publications, and interactive features. Conserving a Carousel Horse covers the details of restoring this once beloved attraction from Rock Springs Park in Chester, West Virginia. Visitors can get a glimpse of how the conservators work on a historic object through scientific examination combined with research on the manufacturing practices of the period.
The Frank Lloyd Wright Building
The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
New York, New York
The Guggenheim Museum is considered one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpieces. On this page, visitors can learn about many different aspects of the Frank Lloyd Wright building, from its construction and history to its significance in the context of public architecture, and not just through words and images. The audio recordings provide more personal and in-depth insights on the topic and the architect himself — particularly, “Hear Guggenheim Staff and 99% Invisible’s Roman Mars on the Museum’s Architecture” offers a more casual learning experience in the form of a podcast. Additionally, via Google Arts & Culture, visitors can “tour” every inch of the museum right from their screen.
Bringing the Galle Chandelier to Life
Sculpture & Decorative Arts Collection
The J. Paul Getty Museum
Los Angeles, California
The J. Paul Getty Museum boasts extensive collections of visual objects ranging from the Middle Ages to the present day. The Getty’s Sculpture & Decorative Arts Collection includes more than 1,700 impressive items that display European craftsmanship. In a YouTube video, Bringing the Galle Chandelier to Life, viewers may observe how Gérard-Jean Galle’s chandelier would have originally looked in real life. As the video progresses, the room becomes dimmer, candles are lit, and a glass bowl at the bottom is filled with water and goldfish, showcasing how the wealthy desired to display their opulence and innovation in the 19th century. With the help of computer graphics technology, The Getty is able to share the chandelier with the public without damaging the actual object.
Degas at the Opéra
(March 1 – July 5, 2020)
National Gallery of Art
Washington, District of Columbia
Since its inception in 1937 as a passion project of Andrew Mellon, the National Gallery of Art has been serving the public with an extensive and prestigious collection of visual culture, including paintings, photographs, three-dimensional objects and more, without any admission fees. The museum’s website allows visitors to navigate all current exhibitions, including images of artworks, narratives of the exhibitions, and relevant resources pertaining to artists and art. Visitors may not only browse Degas at the Opéra, one of the current exhibitions at the museum, but also peruse background information about Edgar Degas, the theater culture of 19th-century Paris, and the patrons and dancers with whom Degas interacted.
Approachable Digital Collection
The Barnes Foundation
Known for its beautiful building and interior, the Barnes Foundation remains committed to the goal of its founder Dr. Albert C. Barnes: that all people should be given the opportunity to learn how to appreciate art without social prejudice or limitation. The Barnes Foundation gives its visitors access to iconic works of art by world-renowned artists and provides educational courses. Honoring this tradition, the website provides a rather approachable way for users to navigate the collection. Visitors can sort the collection not by era or style, but rather by colors, lines, light, or space. Plus, each entry allows users to have a look at the “ensemble” in which the artwork belongs.
Browsing Edward Hopper’s Art Online
The Whitney Museum of American Art
New York, New York
The Whitney Museum of American Art was conceived in 1930 with the aim to represent works of contemporary American artists. The museum has grown significantly since the beginning and currently hosts a collection of over 3,500 artists. One of the most beloved American artists of the 20th century, known for his portrayal of isolation and loneliness in modern society, is Edward Hopper. The museum lists 3,308 works by Hopper including various paintings and drawings. Among them is an oil painting entitled Seven A. M., 1948, which the Whitney featured on its social media channels to evoke the deserted streets of New York City during the shelter-in-place order for COVID-19.
Navigating 150 Years of Art & Design via 360-Degree Tour
Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art
Under the direction of its Founding Director & Curator, Hugh Grant, the Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art boasts a colorful array of art and design collections from regional, national, and global artists and designers. The museum features an unusually engaging method of displaying its works: grouping by era and style through the use of artful vignettes and a practical presentation of how the art and design objects would have looked while in use. On the Kirkland Museum’s website, a 360-degree virtual tour coupled with this philosophy certainly enables visitors to not only learn the historical context that connects each group of objects, but also to embody the visual language being communicated through the display.
The Met 360° Project
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
New York, New York
One of the largest and most visited museums in the world, the Metropolitan Museum of Art is undoubtedly impressive in its size and diversity. The Met 360° Project makes the museum virtually accessible via YouTube and has brought over 11 million viewers on the platform. Here, visitors may explore the Great Hall, which is right past the main entrance of the museum, fly over the Met Cloisters and the adjacent Hudson River, and even roam around the Arms and Armor Galleries. An interesting feature of these videos is that VR can be activated and users can adjust their viewpoint at any point by 360 degrees.
Sprawling 800 Acres of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Legacy
Taliesin (Taliesin East)
Spring Green, Wisconsin
Even though a horrific tragedy drew the public’s awareness to this estate, Taliesin is a living testimony of the architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s accomplishment from 1911, when it was built, until his death in 1959. Wright constructed his famed estate with the intention that his lover at the time, Mamah Borthwick, would move in with him permanently. Employing Prairie School design elements and practical utilization of space, Taliesin exemplifies Wright’s dedication to this style of architecture. With a virtual tour of Taliesin, visitors can explore both the inside and outside of the house, including some areas that are not available during a public tour. For example, the Blue Loggia room is a prohibited area due to the fragility of its original Chinese rug, but the virtual tour allows visitors to take a close look at this and many other rooms.
Visit the Quadracci Pavilion at Home
Milwaukee Art Museum
In 1888, the very first art gallery in the city of Milwaukee was erected. Through the course of over a century of collecting and presenting art, that gallery eventually became the Milwaukee Art Museum, with over 30,000 pieces of local and international art in its collection. The museum is a popular destination for locals and neighbors in the Chicago area given its eclectic and high-quality exhibitions and the beautiful venue. Currently, the Milwaukee Art Museum decided to open up Windhover Hall, the iconic light and airy space right inside Quadracci Pavilion, and let online visitors roam around at their leisure. The museum plans on expanding the virtual experience to cover more areas of its many galleries.
All About the Tiffany Lamps
The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art
Winter Park, Florida
Simply known as the Morse Museum, the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art is widely famous among Tiffany collectors and enthusiasts. Since opening in 1942, the museum relocated a couple of times until it settled at the current location with 42,000 square feet of exhibition space. The vast majority of the museum’s assets come from Mrs. Jeannette G. McKean and Hugh F. McKean’s personal collection. The museum is best known for having a variety of supreme examples of glassworks made by Louis Comfort Tiffany, including rare artifacts from Tiffany’s home in Long Island dubbed “Laurelton Hall” and the chapel from the 1893 Chicago Columbian Exposition. On the Morse Museum’s website, visitors can access web catalogs, introduction videos, and a survey of Louis Comfort Tiffany’s life and legacy.
Passion for Local Art
Cranbrook Art Museum
Bloomfield Hills, Michigan
At the beginning of the 20th century, Detroit-based businessman George Booth and his wife Ellen purchased a property in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan with the intent to establish a center for art education for the locals. As one of the leading figures of the American Arts & Crafts Movement, George Booth was very much invested in educating youth and adults alike. By 1932, the Cranbrook Academy of Art had opened and, in 1942, the Cranbrook Art Museum eventually opened as well. Today the museum still focuses on honoring and fostering local artists and dedicates some of its special exhibitions to them. On the Cranbrook Art Museum’s website, visitors can “walk through” current and past exhibitions, including Ruth Adler Schnee: Modern Designs for Living using 3D virtual tour technology.